Photo: Efecto Cocuyo, retrieved.

Father Andry Sánchez was in shock at the altar, watching the attackers beat the worshippers regardless of age; destroying plant pots, speakers, windows, doors and even relics. A Jesus of Nazareth statue lost its hands.

Sánchez was about to bless the morning mass, last Sunday, when they charged in, some 20 men with guns, stones and sticks. Their goal: destroying the temple Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, in San Francisco, Zulia.

“They came with violence,” Sánchez said. “There’s no talking to them because they were frenzied.”

A day earlier, he was warned.

“I received a phone call on Saturday. They told me, ‘look, father, I come from a meeting in Sierra Maestra: there are plans to destroy the church.’ I warned the neighbors and they were vigilant all night. The attack came in the morning instead.”

These people, Sánchez thinks, are close to San Francisco mayor Dirwings Arrieta.

This isn’t the first attack on the Catholic church in recent days. On January 23th, the Cathedral of Maturin made global news when more than 900 people were locked inside by National Guard officers, a siege that went on for three hours.

It’s no coincidence. Since the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference no longer reconise Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, on January 9th, the bishops have received threats and suffered slander from the dictator himself: “May God forgive them for standing with the far-right.”

They haven’t backed down. During the Divina Pastora procession, in Lara, Msgr. Víctor Hugo Basabe prayed for the end of “the nightmare in Venezuela.”

Their goal: destroying the temple Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, in San Francisco, Zulia.

Pope Francis, however, has remained conspicuously silent; just on January 28, he finally mentioned Venezuela in a cold, evasive fashion. “What scares me? A bloodbath,” he said, not even touching the specific attacks suffered by Venezuelan bishops.

He spoke about Venezuela in Christmas, when he said “May this time of blessing allow Venezuela to find a new concord and may all members of society work fraternally for the country’s development, helping the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”

Really, Francis? Finding concord under a criminal dictatorship?

In 1935, Pierre Laval, French Foreign Minister, demanded Joseph Stalin to stop repressing Russian Catholics if he wanted to sign an agreement with the French (considering Germany’s rearmament). They wanted Pope Pius XI to condemn the situation. Stalin’s response was: “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

If comrade Stalin had lived in Francis’s times, he wouldn’t have to use defiant language, because the Argentinian Pope would surely ask the Russians to rediscover themselves as brothers, and make efforts to strengthen reconciliation for a better country.

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